Johnny Cueto shuts out San Diego Padres, Reds pick up win 5-0

CINCINNATI -- Two shutouts. Three complete games. Best ERA in the majors. A start to the season unlike any other in more than 100 years.

Johnny Cueto is quickly compiling some really loud numbers.

Cueto pitched a three-hitter for his second shutout of the season, and Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer and a double, leading the Cincinnati Reds over the San Diego Padres 5-0 Thursday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

Cueto (4-2) lowered the majors' best ERA to 1.25 with his third complete game in nine starts.

Is he the best starter in the majors right now?

"I would say yes because the numbers talk and my numbers are going to talk for me," Cueto said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera interpreting.

Cueto is the first major league pitcher to go at least seven innings and allow two or fewer runs in each of his first nine starts since the Philadelphia Athletics' Harry Krause in 1909, according to information provided to the Reds by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Also, he is the first Reds pitcher to go at least seven innings in each of his first nine starts since Bucky Walters in 1944.

"He needs to start getting some national attention," shortstop Zack Cozart said. "I was watching TV the other night, and they were talking about (Zack) Greinke and (Clayton) Kershaw and I'm like, 'What about Johnny C?'"

The most impressive part to the Reds is how he won't ease up even with a big lead like the one on Thursday.

"He's one of those guys that it doesn't matter (what's on) the scoreboard, he just goes out there and continues to attack, continues to follow his game plan," catcher Brayan Pena said. "That's why he is who he is. That's why he's been pitching the way he is."

San Diego came into the game last in the NL in batting average (.222) and runs (118). The Padres were blanked for the seventh time, the most in the majors. Cueto fanned eight, walked two and threw 116 pitches.

Cueto felt a little tight and sluggish while warming up in the bullpen on a cool afternoon, but still managed to pitch a shutout.

Cueto now has three complete games this season. That's more than any other team in baseball.

"He was terrific," manager Bryan Price said. "He's had games where he's been sharper, but he kept making pitches. I don't know what else I can say about him."

Phillips homered off Ian Kennedy (2-5), and Cozart singled home a pair of runs, part of a three-hit game for the shortstop.

Kennedy had been tough on the road and tough on the Reds throughout his career. The right-hander was 2-0 in his first three road games this season and had been 3-0 in four career starts against Cincinnati, holding the Reds to one earned run or less three times.

He repeatedly pitched out of trouble early on, forcing the Reds to strand four in scoring position during the first three innings.

The Reds got runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth, and Phillips connected for his third homer. In his last nine games, Phillips is 14 for 35 with seven doubles, two homers and five multihit games.

Cozart snapped an 0-for-15 streak with runners in scoring position when he singled home a pair of runs in the sixth. Kennedy gave up a season-high five runs and 11 hits in six innings.

San Diego's Seth Smith singled, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games. Cincinnati's Todd Frazier singled twice and extended his career-best streak to 13 games.

NOTES: The Reds promoted LHP Jeff Francis from Triple-A Louisville to start the second game. Francis signed a minor league deal in January after the Rockies let him go. ... The Reds optioned right-handed reliever Nick Christiani to Louisville before the first game, then added him as the 26th man for the second game. The Padres added reliever Kevin Quackenbush as their extra player for the second game. ... The Reds moved right-handed starter Mat Latos to the 60-day DL. Latos is expected back from knee and forearm problems in early June.

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